The LSU basketball program drew the attention of both the FBI and the NCAA this past season, one of the best in recent history for the Tigers program. Now, the football team is drawing some similar attention.
This week, LSU booster John Paul Funes pleaded guilty to stealing over $500,000 from a Louisiana charity that benefits a local hospital. He says that he gave $180,000 of that money to James Alexander, the father of a former Tigers star Vadal Alexander.
Given the attention LSU was already drawing due to the FBI investigation into college basketball, this focus on the school’s prized football program is likely the last thing it wanted. From Yahoo Sports:
That payment could, of course, be an NCAA violation. LSU issued a statement to the Business Report and declined further comment after it said it “was made aware of specific allegations by [foundation] officials in late 2018 and made that information immediately available to the NCAA.”
The details of Funes’ embezzling are quite wild. He was the CEO and president for the Our Lady of the Lake hospital system’s foundation and stole the half-million over a period of seven years. He took gift cards that were for people with cancer and also paid for trips to LSU and New Orleans Saints football games.
In light of Funes’ guilty plea, Yahoo reports that the NCAA has an “ongoing inquiry” into LSU football.
Obviously details are scarce as of now. Alexander left LSU in 2016, and was a seventh round pick by the Oakland Raiders in that year’s NFL Draft. He was waived by the team last summer.
An LSU spokesman said in a statement that LSU has been engaged with the NCAA about the “ongoing inquiry” regarding the scheme. LSU has known about the alleged payment since 2018, but the NCAA has been limited in its investigative ability as to not interfere with Funes’ case. (This is similar to why the NCAA has been slow to react in the wake of the federal basketball corruption scandals.)
“LSU was made aware of specific allegations by Our Lady of the Lake officials in late 2018 and made that information immediately available to the NCAA,” said LSU senior associate athletic director, Robert Munson. “As this is an ongoing inquiry, LSU will have no further comment at this time.”
Funes also was charged with funneling money to the family of former LSU quarterback Rohan Davey — a legal issue but likely not an NCAA problem for the school since it was well after Davey played for the Tigers. His senior season was in 2001.
Funes’ embezzlement began in 2012. It is unclear when the payments to Alexander’s father took place, but it seems likely that it was before Ed Orgeron joined Les Miles’ staff in 2015. The next year, he was made the interim head coach after Miles was fired.
LSU basketball came under fire earlier this year, when head coach Will Wade was alleged to have openly discussed making a “strong-ass offer” to then-recruit Javonte Smart, who went on to play for LSU. Wade was suspended at the end of the regular season, and missed the Tigers’ post-season run, but was surprisingly reinstated after the season, and will be the Tigers’ head coach moving forward, after meeting with LSU and NCAA officials.